Where the History of Canada's Navy Comes Alive!   

The Naval History of Manitoba
1938 - Winnipeg's Navy is Going Strong
Full Speed Ahead to Winnipeg's Naval Reserve Division.


(Winnipeg, 1938) The Men of the Winnipeg Division, mustered in the Gertrude Avenue Barracks.

The following article is taken from the 15th Anniversary Book published by the Winnipeg Division, in 1938. It provides an excellent "snapshot" of life in a pre-war, prairie Naval Reserve Division.

FIFTEEN years ago this month The Department of National Defence set up a Unit of the Royal Canadian Navy to be known as the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Administered by the Naval Service of Canada, headed by the Chief of Naval Staff at Ottawa, the Unit was modelled after a similar organization in the British Isles known as the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In Canada, Divisions were established in Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina. Saskatoon. Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Halifax, St. John, Charlottetown. Port Arthur was added later.

On April 22, 1923. the Winnipeg Division, under the command of Commander Eustace Brock, A.D.C., R.C.N.V.R., was established. To him fell the task of creating an interest in this first Naval Unit in the Province of Manitoba and recruiting the personnel. The work of organization could not have been placed in better hands, and to Commander Brock goes a large part of the credit for the outstanding success which the Winnipeg Division has enjoyed since its inception.

Incidentally, Commander Brock served for three years in the Imperial Navy during the War. In 1931 he was appointed Honorary Aide-dc-Camp to His Excellency the Governor-General.

Within the first few months the Division was built up to its full strength of 114 Officers and men, and. as mentioned, since that time almost 1,000 Officers and men have served or are still serving with the Unit, or have been transferred to permanent employment in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Because of the need for specialized training, and to develop a training ship atmosphere, separate quarters were needed to house necessary naval equipment and so it was that the first Headquarters were established in the old Rat Portage Lumber Company building in Norwood, being officially opened by the then Deputy Minister of National Defence, Mr. G. J. Desbarats, with the traditional ceremony of "The Breaking of the Flag." The white ensign, which is worn by all ships of His Majesty's Naval Service, was hoisted to the masthead and then broken out, signifying that the barracks was officially "commissioned". The home of the Unit is the only building in Manitoba on which the white ensign can be flown officially.

The present Headquarters are located on Gertrude Avenue at Osborne Street. Here the Barracks are laid out like a ship, and there is no less tradition in the "ship" of the Unit than there is in any vessel of the Royal Canadian Navy. Once a member sets foot on the deck for drill and classes his whole deportment is that of a man afloat. The Unit, which now censists of 150 Officers and men, parades once a week for regular drill, and citizen sailors between the ages of 18 and 26 are given intensive instruction in gunnery, torpedo, seamanship. signals, wireless telegraphy, rifle shooting and many other subjects. For this purpose There will be found naval guns, a torpedo, seamanship models, wireless and signal equipment and many nautical instruments.

Drills at the Barracks are discontinued during the summer months, but ratings are given instruction in boat work on the river. Two service boats - 27-foot Montague whalers - are used for practical instruction in boat-pulling and the handling of service boats under sail.

Education plays an important part in advancement from one rating to another. In addition to examinations on professional subjects at Headquarters, each rating is required to pass an Educational test before he can be considered for promotion.

Physical fitness is necessary to join the R.C.N.V.R. and continue in the service. Each man has to pass a complete medical examination on joining thc Reserve and is also given a thorough checkover before leaving for Naval Training each year. This enables him to keep a close check on his physical well-being - a fact of importance in Ihe individual and to the community. The physical standard of members of the R.C.N.V.R. always remains at a high level.

In addition to the training at Divisional Headquarters each man is required under the terms of his enrolment to attend Naval Training at the Royal Canadian Naval Barracks at Esquimalt for at least two weeks each year. Here practical instruction is given in ships of the R.C.N. and everything is done to turn out qualified seamen. While undergoing Naval Training at Esquimalt the same pay and allowance is given as received by a rating in the permanent service, the men doing practically the same work. For a rating who can get the time off from his civil employment, or who is unemployed, additional time is allowed at Training Headquarters in the form of Voluntary Service. Furthermore, each year a limited number of ratings who have outstanding attendance records at weekly drills, and who have superior ability, are given an opportunity to carry out training during the winter months in ships of the Royal Canadian Navy at the manoeuvres held in southern waters.

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